Sunday, July 26, 2015

True to Form

Have no fear, Elizabeth; your prayers will be heard.

Elizabeth is from Yonkers and she’s suffering leg pain, hypertension, and sciatica, among other ailments. And she’s asking people to pray for her.

I’ve never met Elizabeth, but I learned a little bit about her this week when I was walking home and spotted a form she had completed on the sidewalk.

I was about to dismiss the folded sheet of blue paper as trash and continue walking, but once I saw handwritten notes across the back of the form I had to know what was going on.

I’ve been picking stuff up off the ground ever since I was child, much to my late mother’s consternation, and there’s nothing more exciting than reading the words of a stranger.

This probably qualifies as some kind of invasion of privacy, but I can’t help it. I like to read about other people’s lives. And it’s not just me: there’s an online publication, Found Magazine, that’s dedicated to this type of material.

It turned out that this form was a request for prayers from an evangelical church in Texas and apparently Elizabeth, who attends services at a church in my neighborhood, had dropped it before she had a chance to mail it off to the Lone Star State.

Please fill out completely,” the form said. “Write prayer needs on back. Our prayer team will continue to pray for you.”

I’ve never heard of the Texas church, which I shall refrain from naming. I did a little research and learned that the pastor is “an anointed healing evangelist who has devoted her life to carrying a message of hope, deliverance, and healing to the nations.”

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet...

The church’s website has an online prayer form, but Elizabeth from Yonkers elected to go by snail mail as she listed her health problems and asked for help.

A lot of people will roll their eyes at this sort of thing, but I know what it’s like to be sick and frightened as I struggled with chronic fatigue and other immune system problems for a large part of my life. You can lose hope very quickly and become hostile, angry, and quite depressed.

I look back on some of the awful things I said when my health was really bad, all this “why me” stuff, and I feel quite ashamed of myself. But shame just make things worse and it’s far more important to be grateful for every day on earth.

There are times when things are so bad and so far out of your control that all you can do is pray. I’m going through some difficult times right now and I’m spending a lot of time asking the Almighty for help.

I’m not overly impressed with this Texas ministry, but that’s not my business. Clearly Elizabeth sees something worthwhile in the organization and so all I have to do is pass the message along.

When I was in Colorado I came across a photo of some children that was stuck within the pages of a used book and I eventually mailed them back to the bookstore in hopes that the pictures might make their way back to their rightful owners.

And that’s what I’m going to do with Elizabeth’s prayer form. This afternoon I put a short post-it note on the front, slipped the form into an envelope and dropped it in the mail.

The Texas prayer team will soon be praying for Elizabeth’s health, and so will I.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Man on the Run

I was singing along with Paul McCartney in the Key Food this morning when my voice started to crack.

The supermarket’s sound system was playing “Band on the Run,” the title track from Sir Paul’s 1973 album, which dominated the airwaves back in those ancient times.

My mother knew the song from hearing it repeatedly on her children’s various radios but she managed to mangle the lyrics by singing “Man on the Run.”

I set her straight on her mistake and we had a good laugh over it.

But last week marked the 13th anniversary of her passing and hearing that song today was a sad reminder of the gap I still have in my heart after all this time.

Still, I don’t recommend crying in the produce aisle as you’re liable to upset the other customers.

This was my first full week since returning from vacation in Los Angeles.

The good times are fading quickly from my mind much too quickly as the problems I shoved aside while staying at my uncle’s house were waiting for me as soon as my plane landed at JFK, including a career issue that’s been clinging me to like a Siamese twin for far too long.

I knew I should’ve torn up that return ticket.

One of the things I miss the most from the trip was the morning walks my sister and I used to take around our uncle’s Mount Washington neighborhood. It’s a beautiful hilly area that’s so full of trees it’s hard to believe you’re in a city.

Like You, Mama…

We’d walk by these wonderful homes, trying to decide which one I should buy when—and if—I finally move out to LA. I talked to her about my terror of moving across the country without a job, particularly at my age, and my sister gave me a fantastic bit of advice.

“You should pray,” she said. "Pray to Mom."

Pray to Mom? The thought was totally alien to me. Each morning I pray that both my parents rest in peace, of course, but it had never occurred to reach out to the person who brought me into this world, who showered me with nothing but unconditional love, and ask for her guidance.

I took my sister’s advice this week, and not just about California, but about my current difficult situation.

The first days back in town were rough, very rough, and I felt like a drowning man. That’s when I prayed to my mother.

I know that she wanted us all to be happy and to stop tearing ourselves down, and asking for her advice reminds of me how much she loved us.

I finally got some encouraging signs on Thursday. Things are still pretty serious, but they’re perhaps not as dire as I had thought and I’m extremely grateful for that tiny bit of daylight in an otherwise very dark place.

This was also the same day that my mother left this world in 2002 and I’m sure many people would say that the good news arriving on this particular date was nothing more than a coincidence. Good for them.

I, on the other hand, intend to take it as a sign that I’ve got somebody very special watching over me.

The rain hasn’t exploded with a mighty crash and I didn’t fall into the sun. And if I ever get out of here and leave New York, I’ll be the man on the run, but I’ll always stay close to Mom.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Blue Rescue

My sister and I looked down toward the ground and spoke in one loud voice.

“Hi, Mr. B!” we said.

Mr. B, a blind Australian cattle dog, also known as a Blue Rescue, turned his fabulous bluish-gray head in our direction and began barking.

“Thank you!” his owner said.

It was our pleasure. We met Mr. B and the lovely woman who had adopted him on Friday during our walk around Griffith Park in Los Angeles and she told us calling out to him was a very helpful part of his training.

We were flying back to Brooklyn on the following morning and meeting Mr. B—who lost his sight at a very young age--did a lot to rescue us from our end-of-vacation blues.

This whole trip was a rescue mission for me as I got to spend quality time in a great place with people I love.

We stayed with my Uncle Joe and Aunt Sara, as we’ve done so often in the past, seeing some great sights, eating (too much) great food, and getting some much-needed rest and relaxation.

All vacations should work out this well.

We left town on July 1 and enjoyed a wonderful July Fourth barbecue at Joe’s house.

In addition to the great food and excellent company, the day featured a rather strange incident where Joe had a friend post a notice on Craigslist offering the long-unused piano in his living room to anyone who wanted it—and two guys actually came to haul it off in less than two hours.

In fact one of the moving guys, who’s also a piano instructor who had studied in England, tickled the ivories for us before he and his partner dismantled the instrument and loaded it into a van with seven other pianos.

I don’t know about the other guests, but this was certainly a first for me.

Palm Trees Grow and Rents are Low…

My sister and I hit Venice Beach, which is about as strange and wacky as people say it is and then we got a private tour from one of Joe and Sara’s friends of the incredible Hollyhock House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s first Los Angeles project.

We also visited the Huntington Gardens, one of my favorite LA attractions and I made a return trip to the California Science Center is see the Space Shuttle Endeavor. I had seen both of these places before and I’ll gladly see them again.

At my sister’s suggestion, we used more mass transit for some of the sightseeing this time, which gave our hosts a much-needed rest and brought us closer to LA’s everyday people.

I was amazed how friendly people were, especially the bus driver who took us down to the Science Center and this very kind gentleman who was working at the information booth at Union Station—which is a beautiful thing to see as well.

This man was actually leaving the building to go home when my sister called out to him. And instead of saying “my shift’s over” and storming out, he very nicely gave us the information we needed.

It hurts to say this, but that kind of courtesy can be hard to come by in New York. (And here comes the hate mail…)

We spent our last full day at the LA Zoo, one of those attractions that I had once dismissed as “too touristy”—and, of course, I loved it.

As always when I travel to LA, I agonize about whether I should move there or not. And as always, I do little else but agonize, replacing action and logic with excessive handwringing.

This time out, however, I am a little less fearful about making the move.

Yes, I loathe the hassle of driving and owning a car, and yes, the massive Mad Max freeways scare the screaming bejeezus out of me, but irrational fear has ruled my life for far too long.

Now moving to LA feels more like a change of address than a change of religion.

Mr. B’s owner told us that despite his blindness he gets around the house just fine. He’s found a way to adjust to his situation, which is something we should all keep in mind.

Look, I may never move to LA, but I am going to stop torturing myself about it because all self-abuse does is make life tougher—wherever the hell I’m may be living.

And you never know. Perhaps some day I’ll be greeting Mr. B on a regular basis.